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ERG welcomes same sex marriage Bill

Pic by Eyleen Sheil

The Equality Rights Group has welcomed news that the Government will present a Bill in Parliament to amend the civil marriage Act to allow for civil marriage between couples of the same sex.

“Now it’s up to Parliament,” the Group said in a statement.

ERG Chairman, Felix Alvarez, said: “Through this, Gibraltar understands that ‘separate but equal’ approaches to people’s options and status in life are not the best way to personal sovereignty, individual self-determination, integration and social stability.”

“Those were the salient elements and demands underlying our One Civil Marriage Law For All Campaign, and we can only be satisfied to see Gibraltar responding,” the ERG added.

“Today we think of all the children who will grow up never having to realise they would once have been thought unworthy wherever they walked. And are deeply and genuinely grateful for not only all those coming generations that need never know, but also for those who have known only too well and whose pain has now opened into a smile.”

The ERG, who has led the campaign for amending the civil marriage law, added that the Bill is the culmination of 16 years “non-stop” work to get to this point.

“During that time, we have been coherent in always insisting on non-discrimination, for example, in the Civil Partnership law approved in March 2014 so that those provisions included both heterosexuals and LGBTI people.”

And, on the very same basis, we have insisted on the extension of marriage to all citizens regardless of gender, the ERG said.

“In so doing, Gibraltar joins the growing community of nations which, after years of unjust discrimination, have determined to opt for justice.”

The Group outlined how the Government’s announcement mentioned additional religious safeguards having been built into the text of the originally published proposals document.

The ERG said it has not been provided with advance notification of these and so is not in a position to comment until such time as it has had a chance to reach a considered view.

“I would like to take this opportunity, nonetheless,’ Mr. Alvarez said, “to assure the religious communities of Gibraltar that the advance this proposed legislation represents will in no way impinge upon Equality Rights Group’s commitment to the defence of human and civil rights for all – among which religious liberty is fundamental.”

The Group underscored that a central tenet behind its campaign on One Civil Marriage Law for All that this was to be a civil, not a religious legal provision.

“This emphasis in our Campaign, for whatever reason and despite frequent reiteration by us, was hardly noted but it is a vital and important one.”

“ERG is an across-the-board human and civil rights organisation, and Gibraltar’s religious communities will always find ERG standing shoulder-to-shoulder, as an ally, in defence of their legitimate rights.”

The Group has extended a ‘hand of dialogue and understanding’ to the Catholic Church, the Anglican Church, all other Christian denominations present in Gibraltar, the Jewish Community, the Moslem Community, the Hindu and Bahai congregations and denominations in Gibraltar, as well as the Buddhist Sangha.

“It would be a step forward if that invitation were now heard and reciprocated,” the ERG said.

The Group has thanked the Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo, and the Minister for Equality, Samantha Sacramento, for their ‘important behind-the-scenes work of consultation and discussion’.

“Emerging as we did from an atmosphere of total and resistant silence and taboo in 2000, ERG has always been known for its, at times, controversial advocacy of open discussion, dialogue and debate, however difficult, as a means to promoting advances.”

“And, although the wait for change in favour of Equal Marriage was, at times, anxious and frustrating for many in the Community, the desire for progress, evidenced in our formal but discreet meetings and discussions with Government over the period, has permitted us to move forward in understanding.”

“However, we must still wait for the outcome in Parliament. Whilst we believe the outlook is very favourable, the final decision is in the hands of the House,” the ERG said.

It concluded by saying that it will closely monitor MPs' voting on the day, and it hopes that a parliamentary majority will be voting in favour and without further change or delay.

 

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